This 8-Day Cultural Odyssey will give you a glimpse of Central Bhutan culture. Central Bhutan presents one of the most coveted Bhutan travel and tourism opportunities in the country because of its distance from major commercial hubs and relatively thin population. You are expected to see and do many extraordinary things in this tour.
Outline of the itinerary:
Day 1 – Paro-Thimphu
Day 2 – Thimphu - Gangtey
Day 3 – Gangtey
Day 4 – Gangtey - Trongsa
Day 5 – Trongsa - Punakha
Day 6 – Punakha - Paro
Day 7 – Paro
Day 8 – Depart from Paro
* This is a sample itinerary that can be customized.
Arrival in Bhutan (Thimphu Alt. 2350m / 7,710ft)
Flying in to the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression.
After clearing customs and visa control then you will meet our guide at the exit gate. Then you will drive about 1 hour to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital (population 100,000): still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light!
The sightseeing in Thimphu includes; drive to Kuensel Phodrang also knows as Buddha point. It is a place where many Bhutanese frequent, especially on Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Seated Buddha (169 feet). The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
We will also stop at National Memorial Chorten; the building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace.
After descending from Dochu La (pass) you will stop in Thimphu for lunch and then
Weekend Market – Every, Friday, Saturday & Sunday, people from Thimphu valley & other parts of country congregate to sell and buy products. It is an opportunity to mix with local people and the products they sell.
Thimphu to Gangtey (5hrs)
Today we head for Gangtey. En route, stop at Dochula pass, located on the way to Punakha from Thimphu. The pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquility of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass.
Known as the Druk Wangyal Chortens- the construction of these108 chortens was commissioned by the eldest Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. The pass is also popular spiritual destination for both locals and tourists because an important temple is located on the crest of Dochula pass.
The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple): was built in honor of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The past and future appears to merge in the details of the lhakhang (temple) and its structure tells the story of a supreme warrior figure, whose vision pierces the distant future in a fine blend of history and mythology.
After that, we continue driving to Gangtey and enjoy the scenery of land escape. Gangtey/Phobjikha valley and the valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valley’s are tightly enclosed. The Phobjikha valley is surely one of the loveliest high altitude valleys in Bhutan. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black-necked cranes, migrating from the Tibetan plateau. This magnificent bird can be seen from early November to the end of March.
Today we will visit Gangteng Gompa monastery; Pema Lingpa himself had chosen it. Construction of the monastery begun in the early 1500s by Pema Lingpa’s grandson, the first Gangteng Tulku Gyalse Pema Thinley, and the 2nd Gangteng Tulku Tenzin Legpai Dendup completed the present form of the monastery later that century. The monastery’s name, attributed to Pema Lingpa, is simple and appropriate: “top of the hill.” Gangteng Gonpa is presently the largest private Nyingma monastery in the entire Kingdom of Bhutan. The monastery complex has five temples that surround the main central tower. The Monastery is one of the main seats of the religious tradition based on Pema Lingpa's revelations and one of the two main centres of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism in the country.
Natural Trial; This pleasurable walk will give you a nice feeling for Phobjikha valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley. After passing a chorten and Khewa Lhakhang, the trail ends at the local community school; this involves a 30-minute walk up to the start of town. The Nature Trail can be combined with a visit to Gangtey Goemba and the local school. Gangtey Goemba is a 16th century monastery situated picturesquely at the hilltop at the edge of Gangtey village, making it the landmark structure of Phobjikha valley. It is the central seat of the Pedling tradition of Buddhism in Western Bhutan, and was built as a centre of spiritual teaching.
After lunch depart to Punakha valley; at an altitude of 1,300 metres (4,265 feet), Punakha Valley is one of the lowest lying valleys in Bhutan and enjoys a warmer climate.
Farm House Visit - A cluster of quaint farmhouses embroiders the beauty of Gangtey valley. A visit to farmhouse is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the life style of the farmer.
Gangtey to Trongsa (5hrs)
After breakfast, you will drive for about 5 hours to Trongsa valley, the Vanguard of warriors. It is a scenic drive via the Pelela Pass at 3,420 meters and across quaint little highland villages of Sephu, Rukubjee, Chendebjee, Tangsibjee and many other small rural settlements along the way.
We will stop to visit Chendbji Chorten, patterned on Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu. It was built in 18th century by Lama Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
At the Trongsa viewpoint, enjoy the view of the majestic Trongsa Dzong/Fortress of the vanguard of Warriors and the neighbouring valleys.
Today’s sightseeing include to visit Trongsa Dzong : Like almost all towns in the Kingdom, this Dzong architecture dominates the entire Trongsa horizon dwarfing the surrounding buildings. Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second King ruled the country from this ancient seat.
Protected from invaders by an impenetrable valley, Trongsa Dzong is an impregnable fortress. The Dzong itself is a labyrinth of temples, corridors and offices holding court over the local community. It is built on many levels into the side of the hill and can be seen from every approach to Trongsa heralding its strength as a defensive stronghold.
Ta Dzong: The Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five storeys, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, a task entrusted to him by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity. There are 224 items on display including a sacred image of Sung Joenma Dorji Chang (self spoken Vajradharna), a bronze statue of Pema Lingpa, made by himself, and a number of centuries-old treasures like dance and ritual costumes and objects, ancient prayer books, paintings and scrolls, and textiles.
The Ta Dzong is a living museum and the main lhakhang in the Utse is dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha (Gyaltsab Jampa), also known as the Future Buddha). A Khesar Lhakhang is dedicated to Khesar of Ling. The tower has always been a place of retreat and there are hermits in practice, including two yogis, who are in life long meditation. The Ta Dzong is the only structure that has been restored specifically to tribute the Wangchuck dynasty as Bhutan celebrates the centenary of the Monarchy.
Trongsa to Punakha (6hrs)
You will drive back to Punakha via Pelela Pass and descend down the warmer valleys of Wangdue and into the lush and wide Punakha valley.
On arrival stop for a stroll up to the Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the ‘monastery of the Mad Monk’. This auspicious fertility monastery built in 1499 enjoys a very colourful history, which your guide will explain to you. It is still a place of important cultural significance today where females come to receive a ‘wang’, a fertility blessing to aid pregnancy.
Punakha to Paro (4hrs)
Today bit early, we begin our hike by crossing the Mochu River and ascending a numerous switchbacks to the Namgyel Khamsum Yuely Chorten. Looking downstream, the viewpoint here affords grand views of the Mochu River Valley below. We descend from the temple and follow a well-worn path down the valley through rice fields and small villages. Along the way we are rewarded with stunning views, the terraced rice paddies providing an exotic backdrop to the river below.
Visit the impressive Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Dzongkha has been inextricably linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of the most majestic structures in the country. Punakha Dzong has also countless monastery inside the Dzong.
It’s a return journey from here as we drive back retracing the road till Dochula pass then to Paro. We will have as many stops as possible on the way to make the drive easier and to enjoy the sceneries.
Hike to Taktsang (Tiger's Nest Monastery) 4-5 hrs Hike.
Today, we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This day hike is not only historically and culturally interesting, but also incredibly scenic! It takes about two hours to reach the cafeteria, which gives a breathtaking view of the Tiger’s Nest. From Cafeteria it takes 1 hour to reach the main temple. This day hike is not only historically and culturally interesting, but also incredibly scenic! This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight. Your escort from Discovery Bhutan will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.